Thoughts on the 11th September 2001

Thoughts on the 11th September 2001
by Sean Gabb
(5th September 2002)


On the 11th September 2001, I started out on holiday with Mrs Gabb to Greece. I was disembarking in a small airport when the bombings happened in America. We then drove off immediately to a small cottage in the hills above Chania, and did not go into town until we had eaten and drunk everything in the rather generous welcome pack left for us. When I did eventually hear about the bombings, I went back to the cottage and, looking out over the bay far beneath, wrote the following article in a lined exercise book I had bought for the purpose.

On getting back to England, I decided not to publish the article. The media was still flooded with report and speculation, and my own thoughts on the matter seemed too stale and lacking positive information to justify the effort of transcribing. Now, almost a year later, I have moved house, and I have found the exercise book in a box that I hoped contained something else. It is not quite so unpublishable as I thought last year, and so I am sending out. I publish it exactly as I wrote it, complete with repetitions and digressions.

Sean Gabb
5th September 2002

Saturday 15th September 2001
Villa Aptera

I am presently on holiday half way up a Greek mountain with Mrs Gabb. As we have neither a radio nor a television set, and have made sure to keep the mobile telephones mostly turned off, It was several days before we heard about the terrorist raids in America. What little I do know about them now I had from an American I met outside a Roman church in Chania, from a hurried telephone conversation with Dr Tame, and from a Greek newspaper that I read haltingly and with much skipping of demotic words. I am therefore almost uniquely qualified to comment on the matter.

I am not basically ignorant of the facts. I know what was bombed. I also think it reasonable to assume an Islamic connection. What I am missing is the endless television coverage—the politicians variously sobbing over the widows and orphans, and threatening some vague but terrible revenge; the journalists interviewing each other when no one else is saying anything they think worth covering; and coordinating the whole show in all its limited diversity, the Washington lie machine, now working a pitch that makes the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait nothing by comparison. Sorting through that lot for the occasional nugget of truth and relevancy must surely prevent anyone in the short term from clearly seeing the underlying reality of what has happened. And so, while I have no grasp of detail, and while what I do say will lack all immediacy when I do eventually send it out on the Internet, I think I have something that is worth saying.

First, to the legitimacy of the attacks. The Greeks I have spoken to seem mostly rather pleased by the attacks. The common response goes something like: “It was a terrible thing, and I feel for all those ordinary Americans—but they did have it coming”. I can understand this response. The Greeks have never much liked Westerners. They despised us long after their own days of greatness had passed. More recently, they have resented our superior wealth and civilisation. They only sided with us in the Cold War because of the bribes given to their politicians, and because they hated Soviet atheism more than our Enlightenment virtues. But while I understand the Greek response, I do not agree with it. Undeniably, the American establishment and its British glove puppets have spent the past generation recklessly provoking what has just happened. But I am not at all pleased that it has happened. I have friends in both New York and Washington, and I do not know as I sit here writing if they were not among the victims. I am also strongly aware that what has been done in America could just as easily be done in England. I do not like it that our rulers have killed or helped to kill many times more Moslems than Americans died this week. But neither am I prepared to welcome a retaliation that threatens the whole of western civilisation. If our rulers now propose to carpet bomb whatever Islamic country may be harbouring the directors of the attacks, I cannot find it in me to raise a word of protest.

Ths being said, our longer term response cannot be purely violent. Just as the shootings in Sarajevo started the 20th century, so these aeroplane bombings have started the 21st. And the basic fact of this new century is the death of the American Empire.

Since 1945, the Americans have believed empire to be a fairly cheap business. It is not. The Romans discovered this more than 2000 years ago. They acquired their eastern provinces almost without trying—in one case, they were left a province in the will of the last local ruler. But when the Greeks of Asia Minor rose in support of Mithridates, they murdered 40,000 Roman citizens in one go; and it was only after years of hard fighting that the revolt was crushed. We learnt the cost of our own empire in the blood and humiliations of the South African War. The Americans are now learning the cost of their own empire. It is not a theoretical risk of nuclear annihilation, or a few colourful defeats in south east Asia that can be forgotten or ignored at home. It is the real and ever-present threat of mass terrorism within the United States. And unlike the Romans, but rather like us, the Americans do not have the firmness of mind to live with the costs of empire.

For the moment, I have no doubt, the Americans are breathing fire and vengeance; and they will cheer on anything their government does. But that is only for the moment. It can no longer be assumed that those people who hate America and are not afraid to die are also too stupid to throw away their lives to any great effect. Aeroplanes could be made more secure against a repeat of what has just been done by letting crew and passengers carry weapons—though I doubt if that will be considered, bearing in mind our rulers’ dislike of an armed citizenry. But there are other cheap and easy means of killing civilians on a large scale. Deadly chemicals or germs can be dropped into reservoirs. Otherwise, there are people able to pray themselves into a frenzy, then wiling to infect themselves with something deadly to spread as they walk though crowded railway trains. Whoever it was thought of taking over aeroplanes and crashing them into big buildings is a genius. But no genius is need to vary or improve on that flash of insight. If the Americans carry on as they have, they will be hit again and again. Before long, public opinion will sicken of imperial adventures. Even before then, the monied interests will demand an end to policies that plainly endanger them.

This, after all, is how the Americans usually behave in the face of violent resistance. 20 years ago, they went into Lebanon, telling themselves what a fine job they could do of restoring peace there. A single truck load f high explosive had them straight back out. Much the same happened in Somalia ten years ago.

I do not blame the Americans for such behaviour. Theirs is an individualistic, commercial civilisation. It is not capable of accepting death on a large scale unless there is no easy alternative. That is both the excellence and the weakness of their civilisation. They are not like the Romans. They are not even like the British and French.

And so, whatever the Americans may do in the short term, their empire has collapsed. It should never have been established. It was maintained with endless cruelty and lies. But its passing will leave the same chaotic void as follows the end of every other great empire. Throughout the world, nations and classes raised to power by American support will now be left to find their natural level. The new equilibrium will take years to emerge, will involve unimaginable suffering, and may not be favourable to western civilisation.

The most obvious victim of these changes will be the State of Israel. Since it was founded, it has relied on American support. It has been able to count on American money and weapons and diplomatic support and military intelligence. Though there has always been much quiet grumbling in America at the scale of support, a reasonably united Jewish lobby, plus the fact that the costs of support have never been unbearable, has always kept the Congressional votes favourable. Ths will now change, even if not at first. No bribes or threats of character assassination will keep the votes favourable when the cost is more domestic terrorism. For all they disagree on other matters, Jews and anti-semites agree that the Jewish lobby rules America. I do not think it does. Whatever influence it has enjoyed in Washington has been on the understanding of a limited liability to America. Every perceived increase in that liability will bring a proportionate decline of influence.

For the moment, of course, Israel is a great power in its own right. Its wealth and general civilisation make it unbeatable in any standard war. But the demographic trends in the Middle East are against it.; and I am not sure how long a mostly western and liberal Israeli élite will remain willing all by itself to maintain Jewish supremacy even in Israel, let alone in Israel and the occupied territories. The men with beards who talk endlessly about God’s promise to the Chosen Race would rejoice at ethnic cleansing and wars to establish regional hegemony. But they are not on the whole the people who rule that country. Those are visibly beset by very western moral qualms, and may not have the nerve to begin—let alone continue—the course of terror by which alone their country can be saved. Any Israeli with dual citizenship is well-advised, therefore, to start looking seriously into what right of abode his children can expect to have elsewhere.

But I digress. That America will not remain an imperial power strikes me as not worth doubting. How the retreat will be managed is in doubt. The best option seems to be that the Americans should send the next year in putting on a tremendous show of power—to seek out and punish those responsible for the bombings—and then should quietly scale down their activities in every place that does not involve some obviously vital national interest. And that means abandoning Israel and all the corrupt and inherently weak ruling classes they have been supporting throughout the Islamic world. The object should be to deter future terrorism by a combination of ruthless force and the avoidance of further provocation.

The more likely option, I fear, will involve their blundering about until there have been more and even larger terrorist attacks inside America. Hubris and Nemesis are never long separated. Right at the end of his book Give War a Chance, P.J. O’Rourke writes exultingly of his final experience while covering the 1991 Gulf War. He had hitched a lift out of Kuwait on a New Zealand war plane. Flying at 300 miles per hour, he and the crew dropped to a hundred feet over the Saudi desert and frightened a camp of bedouins. A boy of about ten looked up into the sky. For the split second of visibility, his face could be seen awestruck at the immense technical supremacy of western power. That technical supremacy, says Mr O’Rourke, is a sight the boy would never forget. Perhaps it has not been forgotten. The boy would now be a young man in his twenties. Am I the only person wondering if he ever took flying lessons?

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on the 11th September 2001

  1. The Greeks that you spoke to have mostly never had any civilisational greatness to mourn the passing of, whatever their national myths might say. The racial continuity is, if anything, between we northern Europeans and the Ancient Greeks. Ancient Greece was OUR civilisation, not the Greeks’. It’s that interesting irony that brings us to America. The United States was once OUR civilisation too, racially, culturally, even ethnically, but it is not any longer and has not been so for a very long time. As with Ancient Greece, the remaining archaeological monuments of the Republican United States are now just antiquated remnants of a culture and polity that have died, due to the passing of the ethno-political community that created them.

    I don’t accept that America is or has an empire. They act imperially, and have client states, thus are empire-like, but that’s not the same thing. America took the conscious political decision a very long time ago not to build an empire, as such, and manifestly has not done so. That is what the Monroe Doctrine was partly about: it wasn’t just an assertion of influence, it was also a determined statement that the United States would remain true to its original position of no foreign intervention. I think when we look at the United States, we are dealing instead with something sui generis: a country that projects its power and influence through military force and political and diplomatic influence without permanently annexing territories.

    Even if it could be argued that I am mistaken and this DOES qualify America as an empire of some kind (and I’m sure Dr. Gabb will know better about this than me), I think it would be right to say that America has not occupied itself with “being an empire”. Instead, it has over its history transitioned from being essentially an Anglo-Saxon Republic to being a rationalist-liberal-democratic construct, and even if an empire, the overt goals of its foreign adventures have always been the pursuit of certain idealistic and universalistic values stemming from the Enlightenment (as this is defined in an American context).

    I think this is also quite unique, or at least very uncommon in history. The Nazis, for instance, were idealistic in their own way, in that they were openly nationalistic (and even humanistic) in pursuit of their imperial goals in central and eastern Europe and western Russia, but they were not universalistic. Take Vietnam: a nationalistic rationalisation for the intervention in south-east Asia doesn’t readily spring to mind. The acid test [no pun intended] is really when you ask the most virulent critics of Vietnam what they think it was all about: they scratch their heads (like the rest of us do on the same subject) and eventually mumble something about rotten apples and dominoes. Even the anti-Americans acknowledge that America is a practitioner of liberal universalism.

    This may be the root of the problem. By not ‘being an empire’, but something greyer – a para-imperialistic, universalistic construct – the United States has never had the force of its own convictions to simply pursue selfish national interest – which might have effectively demolished any opposition. This also leaves the Americans vulnerable to domestic alien ethnic lobbies that seek to lever the superior military strength of the USA in defence of local strategic objectives. Which leads us to the events of 9/11 (and other attacks in the years leading up to it, starting with terrorism in the Lebanon under Reagan, and then the beginnings of serious, organised Islamic religious terrorism during the Clinton era).

    I have little doubt that the official conspiracy theory put about by the US government about 9/11 is largely true. The untrue parts will be where the government wishes to downplay its own incidental incompetence, but the official story is plausible and, in my view, broadly true – radicalised Moslems hijack commercial airliners on domestic flights and fly them into strategic targets. It’s a simple plan and it was carried out successfully by terrorists who were, we must concede, very courageous and determined men indeed. I don’t think The Mossad or the US government itself were involved in the conspiracy, and there is no evidence for this whatever anyway. It’s worth noting that the US government has launched significant false flag operations in the past, so the idea that it was an ‘inside job’ is not as wild as it might first sound – but I don’t think it’s true. However I do think there were people within both The Mossad and Israeli government and the United States government who will have been quite pleased with the events of that day – and I think Dr. Gabb has got that part exactly the wrong way round.

    • I don’t think I got it the wrong way round. We are only just coming to the end of the short term reaction, which has been to run about the world showing off. The longer term will begin soonish – a baffled retreat from a world that doesn’t wish to be remade in the American image. When that happens, we may even regret the end of the short term reaction. The world has been made worse by having the Americans try to rule it, and it will be made even worse once they give up and walk away. I think someone said of Augustus that it was a shame he was ever born, and a shame he had to die.

      • Personally, I see no sign of U.S. power abating. I accept 9/11 was significant in that it symbolically marked the closure of a brief period of hegemony that existed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I see it as more of an ebb and flow phenomenon than a decline. Russia is now resurgent and a check on U.S. power in Euroasia, and China is a counterpoint to U.S. influence in the Far East and the Pacific, but neither Russia nor China seem to have any appetite to confront the United States, and neither have had much of an influence on U.S. interventionism in central Asia and the Middle East from the Noughties onwards. What has changed? Apart from the wallpaper at the White House changing every 8 years or so, I can’t see what.

        Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are neoconservative (albeit that Trump is neoconservative in deed rather than name). China has huge potential due to its massive capacity, but its economy is, I believe, not built on solid foundations. Russia seems to align with the United States and NATO on most issues, despite all the noises to the contrary from both sides (the Crimea being the exception, but the rest of it is just theatre). The UK and Continental Europe fall mostly under the auspices of NATO, i.e. the United States.

    • Could you elaborate on what you mean by the racial continuity in terms of ancient and modern Greece? I believe they were spared
      mixing with their conquerors, to the extent eg the Spaniards did (although that too has had limited effect over time going by haplogroup analyses) and that any admixtures were likelier to be with Eastern European populations? But I’d appreciate any commentary.

      • No-one really wants to discuss the racial origins of the Ancient Greeks, do they? I wonder why not…

        I am not an expert in this field (or any field), so I am reliant on (i). what I have read about the research undertaken by others; and, (ii). my own observations and common-sense. You really have to dig around to find any material on this. It’s a taboo question in academic circles.

        Common sense and everyday observation tells me that the modern Greeks have about as much claim on Ancient Greece as today’s indigenous British have on Ancient Rome. I think we all intuitively know this is true. You only have to look at a map. Yes, Greece I proximate to eastern Europe, and interestingly, Greece had a lot of immigration from the early Soviet Union during the 1920s, so I don’t doubt what you say about that, and I am not suggesting that Greeks are anything other than white. Let me make that clear before somebody gets offended.

        However, a map tells us that Greece adjoins Turkey, and is a relative ‘stone’s throw’ from northern Africa and the Middle East. The conclusion is obvious – I don’t need to spell it out.

        Here’s an interesting (and impartial) article on the subject:

  2. Interestingly, blunder along is just what they have done, especially with Obama and his potential successor, Ms Clinton… That said, on Israel, prognoses of their demographic decline may have been premature, on which I’ll post a link later today.

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